We all know that giving is better than receiving, right? But why? Is it because our mamas told us so? Or do we intuitively feel that there are benefits to gift giving? Or are there actual scientific benefits of giving gifts?
In this post, you will learn what science has to say about that. I have shared 17 surprising (and some not-so-surprising) perks of giving as well as the science behind the positive effects of gift giving.
If you like science-based facts and tips, here are some other articles you may also like.
- 22 Fun facts about gifts
- 15 Mind-blowing facts about gift wrapping
- 14 Science-based tips to give better gifts
Table of Contents
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Benefits of gift giving on relationships
#1 Creates stronger relationships
Sources: Fast company & Balconi et al. 2019
Many people have already investigated the reason why humans give gifts. Because gift-giving is not something new. Sure, 1000 years ago people didn’t sit around a Christmas tree filled with gifts yet. But anthropologists and historians have described how tribes around the world have had giving rituals for ages.
And the reason for it?
Gifting rituals create stronger relationships.
There is something about the rather useless act of giving something to someone and them giving something to you in return. It creates stronger bonds. It kind of serves as a symbol of your commitment to this relationship. And the reciprocity is what makes this relationship stronger.
On top of that, the gratitude that comes with gifts also helps to create lasting relationships.
But of course, even if this was not backed by science. We all intuitively knew this already.
#2 You work better together
Sources: Balconi et al. 2019 & Balconi et al. 2020
Personally, I thought this was one of the most fascinating benefits of giving gifts. Several studies have examined the effect of gift exchange before or during cooperative tasks. Two people have to work together on some assignments. During this assignment, their brain activity is monitored and their task speed, accuracy, and collaboration are measured.
People actually improve after exchanging gifts. This applies to both the giver and receiver. They made fewer mistakes and work significantly faster! The researchers also noticed more blood going to areas of the brain that improved cognitive performance.
Benefits of gift giving for the giver
#3 It creates greater joy
Source: Dunn, 2018
I’ve talked about this before when I wrote about fun facts about gifting. Because I think this is a true fun fact.
The study by Dunn gave people the opportunity to spend money either on themselves or on others.
And guess what?
People who spent money on others were significantly happier!
Again, this is something we probably already knew intuitively, but I love it when sciences confirmes my intuition. And the benefits don’t stop there. Check out the next benefits of gift giving to find out more reasons why you should give more.
#4 The joy of giving lasts longer
Source: Association for Psychological Science
As if feeling more joy from giving instead of receiving isn’t enough, there is something even better about joy from gifting; it lasts longer.
So if you want to feel more happiness for a longer period of time, start giving more.
#5 Giving boosts your self-esteem
Are you feeling a bit down and insecure?
Here is the solution I found while listening to an interview with a Harvard professor of psychology; give more.
As it turns out, giving gifts is actually good for your self-esteem. Isn’t that great? While you’re making someone else happy with a gift, you’re also gaining more confidence yourself.
#6 Gifts allow you to say things without the need for words
Alright, this is one of the benefits of giving gifts that’s not necessarily studied by scientists, but I also don’t think they need to. Because I’m pretty sure you’ve used gifts to express your feelings at some point in your life too.
Some examples of things you can say with gifts:
- I love you
- I care about you
- I hope you get better soon
- I’m sorry
- I’m proud of you
- I feel for you
- Thank you
- I’m happy for you
- Do you want to marry me
And am sure there are plenty more things you can say with gifts!
#7 Spending money on others lowers blood pressure
Source: Whillans, 2016
Besides the psychological benefits of gift giving, there are also physical benefits for you as a giver.
One of those benefits is that giving more it’s associated with lower blood pressure. People with high blood pressure who spent money on others for three weeks were found to have lower blood pressure by the end of the study. And not just by little, the decrease was actually comparable to the effect of using medication.
Now, if I can choose between spending money on medication or on others, I really don’t need to think twice.
But the other cool thing they found was that people who spent the most money on others would have the lowest blood pressure two years later. So it’s not just effective in the short run, giving gifts might just be the best treatment for life! (Though remember to always consult a doctor before actually considering this as a treatment.)
#8 Reduces stress and risk of dying
Source : Poulin, 2013
Now before you start spending money on others like crazy and think you’ll live forever. I do need to add a few side notes.
First of all, these studies examine the effect of giving your time and social support rather than gifts. So instead of your money, give your time and love, and you reduce your chances of dying and feeling stressed.
#9 Makes you feel generous
Don’t we all love the feeling of being a good human being?
And if you give gifts to someone you will feel better about yourself. You will feel more generous, because, well you are being generous, you are giving something without expecting anything in return. Or at least, I hope you’re not expect anything in return as that will make you a far better gifter.
#10 Makes you feel in control
This was one of the benefits of gifting that I did not expect upfront. But it’s one that was mentioned by a Harvard professor of psychology. She mentioned that people who give gifts feel like they have more control over the situation.
#11 It’s an act of altruism
Source: Post et al., 2005
Giving to others is a form of altruism. And altruism is something that has been examined by scientists a lot. Way more than gift giving.
And guess what?
Loads of studies have supported the benefits of altruism for people’s health, well-being, happiness, and quality of life.
#12 Forces you to think about someone else instead of yourself
Alright, this is probably one of the most random benefits of giving gifts on this list. And it’s also not really backed up by science.
But when you’re buying gifts for someone else, you have to think about someone else. What do they like? What do they need? Where can I buy this?
And the simple act of thinking about someone else will get you out of your own thoughts, worries, and miseries for a second. It’s almost like a pause. And this pause gives you some space to take a step back from your own problems and look at things from a wider perspective.
I know, it’s a bit of a random benefit. But I truly believe that thinking about someone else instead of yourself can benefit you in the end.
#13 What goes around comes back around
I know I’ve said before that you should never expect anything in return when you’re giving a gift. And I still stand by that. That’s also not what I mean by this benefit of gifting.
What goes around comes back around doesn’t mean you also get a gift in return when you give one.
It’s more of a spiritual thing, like karma. If you do good things for others, eventually good things will come back to you. I don’t know when, how, or in what shape, but this is something I truly believe in.
But here is the funny part.
If the only reason you’re giving to others is to get something good in return. It no longer works. A curious thing right, karma?
Benefits of gift giving for the receiver
#14 Increases levels of oxytocin
Source: Bloom & Wild
You may have heard of oxytocin or better known as “the love hormone” before.
To give you an idea of why it’s called that way and why people love this hormone, here is just a small range of its benefits; creates stronger bonds, reduces stress, eases pain, improves social skills, promotes protective instincts, and increases sexual desires.
And here is the cool thing!
People who receive a gift get a boost in oxytocin levels!
So if you want to form a better relationship with someone or help to ease their pain or reduce stress (or make them sexually aroused), give them a gift!
#15 It creates positive memories
What was the best gift you’ve ever received? Or what was the last gift you received?
I’m pretty sure that remembering these moments brought a smile to your face.
Because giving and receiving gifts create beautiful memories that you can share forever. And that brings the receiver and giver closer together.
And if you want to create the best memories, research suggests that you should go for experiential gifts, over physical ones.
#16 Receivers will feel loved
Remember how we talked about the fact that you can use gifts to say things without words?
Well here is the great thing.
While you’re symbolically saying I’m proud of you, I love you, thank you, or whatever message you’re trying to give with your gift, the receiver will actually feel these things. They will feel special, loved, appreciated, or whatever.
And that’s a great feeling, you wish for anyone.
#17 You can buy something the receiver would never buy for themselves
Humans are really funny you know.
Sometimes we really love something, but then we never buy it for ourselves. Usually, because we give ourselves BS explanations. Like I’m not worth it, I can’t afford it, it’s a waste of money, I don’t need it, or whatever.
But as a gifter, you don’t have these BS explanations and you can just buy something the receiver would never buy themselves. And that’s amazing because I’m pretty sure the receiver is actually worth it.
One example for me would be flowers.
It’s something I would never buy myself, even though I love how they cheer up a room. So when it’s my birthday, I love it when someone gives me flowers! Now, of course, it doesn’t make sense if I have 10 bouquets of flowers, but you get the point.
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Final note on the benefits of gifting
Alright, I hope you enjoyed these surprising benefits of gift giving, and that it motivated you to give even more awesome gifts! And remember to check out my gift guides if you need inspiration for that!
- Association for Psychological Science. “The joy of giving lasts longer than the joy of getting.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 December 2018. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181220080008.htm.
- Balconi, M., Fronda, G., Vanutelli, ME. A gift for gratitude and cooperative behavior: brain and cognitive effects. (2019). Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 14(12):1317–1327, https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsaa003
- Balconi, M., Fronda, G. The “gift effect” on functional brain connectivity. Inter-brain synchronization when prosocial behavior is in action. (2020). Sci Rep 10: 5394. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-62421-0
- Bloom & Wild
- Dunn, EW., Aknin, LB., & Norton, MI. Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness, (2008), Science 319(5870):1687-1688. DOI: 10.1126/science.1150952
- Fast Company
- Post SG. Altruism, happiness, and health: it’s good to be good. (2005) Int J Behav Med. 12(2):66-77. doi: 10.1207/s15327558ijbm1202_4. PMID: 15901215.
- Poulin MJ, Brown SL, Dillard AJ, Smith DM. (2013). Giving to others and the association between stress and mortality. Am J Public Health 103(9):1649-55. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.300876.
- Whillans AV, Dunn EW, Sandstrom GM, Dickerson SS, Madden KM. Is spending money on others good for your heart? (2016). Health Psychol 35(6):574-83. doi:10.1037/hea0000332.